Thunder Kid: Hunt for the Robot Emperor is an unusually difficult game to explain. And that’s despite the fact that it’s incredibly simple. It’s a game that inspires enthusiasm and frustration in equal measure. It’s the epitome of ‘one more go’, and seems to have been designed to be deceptively challenging.
That deception comes from the fact that it looks and plays very simply. The basic visuals give the player an aesthetic reminiscent of the 32-bit era. So too is the gameplay limited enough that you could believe it may once have launched on the Sega Saturn. But no, Thunder Kid: Hunt for the Robot Emperor is a brand new game (although it already has a sequel on PC, it’s new to consoles).
The basic premise is that, while you can move in 360 degrees, the level design only ever tasks you with progressing forward. Each area of each level is revealed as soon as you enter it, with a set path forward through platforming challenges and enemies. The enemy variety is commendable; each requires a significantly different tactic for both avoiding their bullet-hell style shooting and also your own aggressive manoeuvres. A key factor in this is that their range is longer than yours. And so you must analyse every new area upon arrival and plan your attack accordingly.
The platforming action is equally as challenging. There’s no room for imperfect precision here. Jumping from moving platform to platform demands pixel-perfect coordination. One false move and you’ll end up dead on the spike below, or directly in the enemy line-of-fire.
That jump move is your best asset. Throughout all of Thunder Kid: Hunt for the Robot Emperor you’ll be leaping up and down, back and forth in order to avoid incoming bullets. The fact that you have a great degree of air control makes a failed challenge feel entirely your fault opposed to that of the game; a hallmark of some of the greatest patience-rewarding games.
Thunder Kid: Hunt for the Robot Emperor is definitely not a game for everyone. It’s for gamers of a certain age who revel in facing a challenge, and overcoming it with a combination of analytical skills and dexterity. It’s not like Elden Ring, in which the challenge is overcoming high-powered enemies. Nor is it like Demoniaca: Everlasting Night, wherein you have to balance your skillset against the enemies you’re facing. The challenge is about you and your controller. It’s a question of learning, patience and quick reactions. Thunder Kid: Hunt for the Robot Emperor is an old school game, for old school gamers.